January 2012 Archives

Common Law Marriage in Mississippi

January 18, 2012,

Most people may be familiar with the term "common law marriage." Common law marriage was recognized in Mississippi up until 1956. To establish a common law marriage, a man and woman would live together, share property, and generally consider themselves husband and wife. The policy regarding common law marriage was changed by statute, and Mississippi law now requires a valid license for all marriages.

Since common law marriage is no longer recognized in Mississippi, issues may arise when a couple has lived together without the benefit of marriage and then decide to go their separate ways. Such issues may include division of property or the award of child custody. Other problems may arise if either the man or woman dies without a valid will. The survivor may have difficulty proving that he or she was intended to inherit from the deceased partner in the relationship.

The custody and support of children born to unmarried couples is routinely addressed by Chancery courts in Mississippi. However, the law in Mississippi has, until recently, been fairly clear that common law marriages will not be recognized and that upon a separation between an unmarried couple, there could be no legal division of assets accumulated during the relationship. In Davis v. Davis, 643 So. 2d 931 (Miss. 1995), for example, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that where a man and woman had lived together for thirteen years without being married, the woman was not entitled to share in the assets accumulated by her companion during their relationship.

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Grandparent Visitation Rights in Mississippi

January 18, 2012,

If you have a family member who has gone through a divorce or a custody dispute, you know that these types of cases can affect more than just the two individuals in the relationship. When children are involved in a divorce or custody matter in Mississippi, a realm of issues may arise. As a parent of one of the parties involved in this type of case, you may be wondering what rights you have to maintain your relationship with your grandchildren. The goal of the courts in addressing issues related to children is to provide for the best interest of each child. In Mississippi, grandparent visitation can be awarded by any court that has the authority to decide child custody matters. Most commonly, child custody matters are decided in Chancery courts.

Have you recently been denied access to visit with your grandchildren? If so, there may be a solution. There are several situations in Mississippi where grandparents may seek visitation. For example, if your child did not receive custody of his/her children or if your child's parental rights have been terminated, you may seek visitation with your grandchildren in the court that issued the divorce or custody decree. On the other hand, if your child has died, leaving your grandchildren in the custody of the other parent or another relative, you may seek visitation in the county where your grandchild lives.

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Sibling Custody: Stay Together or Separate?

January 18, 2012,

Custody disputes in Misssippi are never easy. Two parents are put into the untenable position of being forced to battle against each other for the right to keep and care for a child that earlier belonged to both of them. These disputes are complicated even further when, instead of just one child being at issue, there are two, three, or more brothers and sisters whose well-being are at stake. Suddenly, the court may be forced to consider whether siblings should go to one parent or be divided between the parents.

The Mississippi Supreme Court has reiterated time and time again that, in custody disputes involving multiple children, courts should strive to keep the family unit together. But the custody analysis does not change in multiple-child households. In every child custody dispute in Mississippi - even those involving more than one child - the court will follow the guidepost that custody should be awarded to the parent best able to serve the "best interests and welfare of the child."

In making this "best interest" determination, Mississippi courts have consistently and explicitly used what are called the Albright factors, so named after the 1983 case in which they were first outlined. These factors are discussed in more detail in the custody section of my blog. Even in multiple-child custody disputes, Mississippi courts still will use these factors in determining which parent will best fulfill the "best interests" of the children. So a key question necessarily comes up when siblings are involved: Is it in the "best interests" of siblings that they stay together in a custody determination?

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